Today in the New York Times Kim Severson chronicles the struggles of bloggers, restaurateurs, chefs, food writers, and cookbook authors to control their weight while pursuing their beloved chosen profession. And, yes, though a part of me cringed at the very thought, my story was among those chronicled.
As the Serious Eats community knows, I have been grappling with my weight online for the past ten weeks in my weekly Thursday posts, and offline my whole life. So for those of you who have newly come to our community of passionate, discerning, and inclusive food lovers, let me say welcome. You will have to wait until tomorrow to see the next installment of my dieting living chronicle, but I thought it might prove useful to summarize where I've been living or dieting-wise.
I was a fat kid who loved to eat and play ball. And even though I was fat, I was a good athlete (Division III college good, not Division I college good). I pitched a no-hitter in my little league's all-star game. I was a fat high school student grappling with the loss of both my parents, and a fatter college student. I would make periodic attempts to lose weight, succeed in the short term, only to put the weight right back on. I lost a lot of weight on the Atkins Diet in college only to contract a mild case of scurvy from not getting enough vitamin C. My college girlfriend claimed not to notice my heft. Maybe she didn't, but I certainly did.
When I arrived in New York in 1973 determined to save the jazz world, I was extremely overweight. A couple of years later, when I was yet a few pounds heavier, I decided I didn't want to be fat any more. I went on a diet and lost more than 60 pounds. When I got married in 1982 I weighed less than 200 pounds. I could dunk a tennis ball, not bad for a six-foot-tall white guy.
Dangers of the Job
I managed to keep most of the weight off for the next eight years until I started writing about food. Exploring every eating neighborhood in researching New York Eats, the book that Severson referred to in the Times article as the manifesto for fatties, I started putting on weight. In an article that Florence Fabricant wrote about New York Eats, I told her I weighed 220 pounds at the time. I'm quite certain I was understating my weight by ten or 15 pounds. When you're fat, you learn early on to lie when asked about your weight.
After that story, my food writing and eating career took off. I was eating lots of food and talking about it in print, on radio, on television, and, with the birth of the internet, online. My weight took flight right along with my career. By 2005 I was heavier than I had ever been in my life.
Down and Up
I had a thin wife and a thin son, both of whom I adore, and they started pleading with me to lose weight. "I want you around, Dad," my son told me one morning. Maybe my wife put him up to saying that, maybe she didn't, but either way he (or she) was right. So I just started eating less, often eating half of what was proffered. Swearing off foods I loved wasn't going to cut it, but eating less of them did. I also played squash and swam four times a week. Within a year, I had lost 30 pounds.
But in the sea of stories and books I was writing about pizza, ice cream, cheesecake, and heroes, the weight kept creeping back. I gained back 17 of the 30 pounds I had lost. It was making me crazy. People still commented about all the weight I had lost, but I knew my weight was trending in the wrong direction.
A New Attempt
So 11 weeks ago, I embarked on Ed Levine's Serious Diet, which appears every Thursday here. I weigh in and chronicle my experiences trying to lose weight while still deriving pleasure from food, which I dearly love. Other serious eaters have joined me in my quest, my never-ending struggle to live free or die, when it comes to food.
So what Severson summarized so neatly in a paragraph in her story I have expanded upon here (that's one of the luxuries of online writing). Come join us tomorrow to read about, comment on, or join me in my struggles.